On July 6th, two scientists at the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales, revealed evidence that the surface ice, hydrocarbon dust and other features on Comet 67P were caused by microbial organisms living under the surface of the comet. Just three days later, ground controllers suddenly announced that Philae – the probe on Comet 67P that had powered back up and was sending signals again – had mysteriously gone silent. Not only that, it appeared the lander had moved. Are these events connected? Could there be life on Comet 67P that’s being hidden from us? What moved Philae?
Astrobiologists Chandra Wickramasinghe, who was involved in the planning of the Rosetta/Philae mission, and Max Wallis conducted computer simulations using current comet data which showed that microorganisms living in the water on the comet were involved in the formation of ice structures, dark hydrocarbons and smooth seas and craters on the surface.
These are not easily explained in terms of prebiotic chemistry. The dark material is being constantly replenished as it is boiled off by heat from the sun. Something must be doing that at a fairly prolific rate.
Shortly after the National Astronomy Meeting, mission scientists at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) announced that Philae had suddenly gone into “silent mode” after waking up on June 13th when its solar panels were in a position to generate power again. DLR had received eight messages before the mysterious shutdown. Mission controllers initially blamed this on a faulty transmission unit.
Later, that assessment was modified to include speculation that the lander was not getting enough solar power because it had somehow moved … or been moved. One possible reason given is that gas coming out of the comet as it’s heated by the sun somehow blew it to a new position.
Is it merely a coincidence that this “silent mode” occur just days after Wickramasinghe revealed what he and Wallis believe is evidence of life on Comet 67P? His research is discounted by other scientists because he has no physical proof and Philae, even if it was working, has no extraterrestrial life detection equipment onboard. How convenient.
Have Wickramasinghe and Wallis discovered evidence of life on Comet 67P? Was Philae intentionally shut down? Did something living underneath the comet’s surface move it to stop transmissions?